CARACAS, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Venezuela will ask British bank HSBC Holdings PLC for a list of state officials who have accounts in its Swiss subsidiary, a prosecutor said on Wednesday, following media reports that Venezuelans were among the bank’s leading clients.
Venezuela and its citizens had some $14.8 billion in assets in HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm in 2007, the third-largest for any country, according to data obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
“We are requesting that this Swiss bank HSBC, as I believe it’s called, (provide) information about Venezuelan public officials that have accounts with this bank,” prosecutor Luisa Ortega said in a televised interview.
She said the request was not a result of media reports but rather part of an investigation by state prosecutors.
Europe’s biggest bank has admitted to failings in compliance and controls in its Swiss private bank after media reports that it helped wealthy clients conceal millions of dollars in assets in a period up to 2007.
Venezuela’s state-run Banco del Tesoro in 2007 opened an account with HSBC and deposited as much as $11.9 billion, according to a report by journalists working with ICIJ. Banco del Tesoro at the time was run by Rodolfo Marco, who is now finance minister.
Marco said in a recent newspaper interview that the accounts were never secret and that there was nothing illegal about Venezuela’s government storing money in Switzerland.
Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Tom Brown